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€1bn worth of supports announced for businesses, with a push to get companies to sell online

The supports aim to help with liquidity issues experienced by businesses.

A BILLION EURO worth of supports for struggling small and medium Irish businesses are now available, Business Minister Heather Humphreys announced today.

The supports aim to help with liquidity issues experienced by businesses and include new measures to help companies move their business online.

It will see an expansion of two Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) Loan Schemes by €450 million.

These are to provide an extra €250 million for working capital and €200 million for longer-term loans.

Among the measures is the extension of support to get businesses trading online, worth €7.6 million.

The minister also announced a €180 million Sustaining Enterprise Fund which will help companies in the manufacturing and international services sectors.

The fund was recently approved by the European Commission in line with EU State aid rules and aims to assist companies who have suffered, or expect to suffer, a 15% or more reduction in turnover or profits as a result of Covid-19.

A new €13 million expansion of Microfinance Ireland funding was also announced for loans. Interest rates on these loans has dropped from 7.8% to 4.5%.

People can apply for loans up to €50,000 with no interest or repayments for first six months.

Selling online

With many businesses forced to close their businesses, many have no choice but to operate online. 

An expansion of the €2,500 trading online voucher scheme for micro-enterprises was announced today.

The government is also going to be flexible with the vouchers, meaning that businesses will now be able to apply for a second voucher of up to €2,500.

“It is really to get them up and running very quickly so that they can sell their products online,” said the minister 

A €2 million Covid-19 retail online scheme is also available through Enterprise Ireland.

This trading support voucher will be available exclusively for indigenous retail businesses with over 10 employees, and is also worth €2,500.

“I think that’s very important for companies. I met one of the DHL delivery drivers the other morning on Kildare Street and said that their business was up to 200%, but mainly a homes. So we’re helping businesses make sure that they get that important online presence, and there are loads of Irish companies across this country that are more than capable of providing good quality products online,” she said.

“We are living in extraordinary times and businesses are having to adapt and change.

“Many smaller companies are still in shock as they witness a complete collapse in their revenue,” she said.

“You can adapt and we are here to help,” said Humphreys.

Enterprise Ireland chief executive Julie Sinnamon said the new Covid-19 business financial planning grant from Enterprise Ireland to the value of €5000 is available to assist companies to develop a business sustaining plan and engage services of an approved financial consultant.

Separate to this,a  €2,500 Lean Business Continuity Voucher is available to help companies quickly access expertise in reviewing and optimising operations at a time of crisis.

Local Enterprise Board chair Oisin Geoghegan said they have moved all of their training programs, workshops and seminars as well as their business networking platforms online. 

Many of these are being provided completely free of charge, such as the mentoring online service.

The minister indicated that a range of other supports would be announced for businesses in the future.

“In terms of the next stage, which would be the reboot stage, I can just say I’m certainly working very closely with Minister [Paschal] Donohoe… when the time comes, we will come forward with another suite of packages. It’s about providing the right suite at the right time. So when we get to the reboot stag,e which we will get to, we will then come forward with another suite of packages.”

Ibec, the group that represents Irish business, today welcomed the supports announcement stating it will provide important assistance to businesses at this challenging time. 

Ibec Director of Policy and Public Affairs Fergal O’Brien said the supports will provide an important confidence boost for firms currently concerned about their cash flow situations.

“It is also very positive to hear that Government plans to deliver further liquidity supports for business and to continue to enhance the suite of measures available. In particular, it will be important that measures of scale are rolled out for mid-sized firms as liquidity challenges are currently impacting on businesses of all sizes,” he said.

The minister also addressed the issue of people who live in the Republic but work in Northern Ireland, stating that under the legislation that currently exists, “if you are laid off south of the border and you live in the north, you have to claim your social welfare in the country in which you live”.

“That is the situation currently. I have asked the Department of Social Protection to look at it and they examined it carefully.

“They have not been able to find a way in which they can pay workers who live in Northern Ireland and work south of the border. If you are living in Monaghan and working in Northern Ireland, you will get the full benefit of the Covid payment here. Regardless of what is available in Northern Ireland, you will get the full benefits as an Irish citizen living here,” she said.

A list of the supports can be found on the department’s website here, and also the Enterprise Ireland website here. Local Enterprise Board supports can be found here.

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